Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Guest Post: The Problem of Large Distances in Value Holism

My thanks to long-time reader Evan Dawson-Baglien for contributing the following guest post on 'The Problem of Large Distances in Value Holism':* * *Value holism in population ethics appeals to a number of strong moral intuitions that human beings possess. By allowing one to reject the principle of Mere Addition, it in turn allows one to reject the Repugnant Conclusion. It also allows rejection of smaller-scale versions of the Repugnant Conclusion which are perhaps even more repugnant, such as the idea that it is morally neutral to kill someone and replace them with a new person whose life will contain the same amount of utility as the first person’s remaining years.  However, value holism also conflicts with strong intuitions about the relevance of distant events to the creation of new people.  It seems strange to say that we need to have fewer children if we somehow discovered that there was a utopia beyond the light cone of our universe, or that the correctness of the Many Worlds Theory of quantum mechanics might have some bearing on the question in either direction. One solution that immediately springs to mind is to limit the contributory value of distant people and events in some way.  If the vast universe is divided into “blocks,” and only people and events in a single block have contributory value towards each other, impossibly distant events are no longer relevant to the value of local world as a whole.  It is important to find a non-arbitrary [More]

Sports & XY

One basic ethical concern in sports is creating fair categories of competition. Age is a non-controversial example of this: elementary school teams do not compete against high school teams because that would be unfair to the elementary school team. Size is also a relatively non-controversial example in boxing—a heavyweight fighter will generally have a significant [More]

Feminist Perspectives on Argumentation

[New Entry by Catherine E. Hundleby on February 18, 2021.] The noun "argument" and verb "to argue" can describe various things in ordinary language and in different academic disciplines (O'Keefe 1982; Wenzel 1980 [1992]). "Argument" may identify a logical premise-conclusion complex, a speech act, or a dialogical exchange. Arguments may play off other arguments or support each other; smaller arguments can serve as sub-arguments inside larger arguments to which they contribute. Following the practice of Anglophone philosophers, this entry uses [More]

The Most Important Thing in the World

Sometimes we may dismiss a problem as "not the most important thing in the world".  Which raises the (surprisingly neglected!) question: what is, literally, the most important thing in the world?In 'The Case for Strong Long-Termism', Greaves & MacAskill argue that the correct answer is: improving the long-run future. I'll try to summarize some of the core considerations here (with any flaws in the exposition being my own), but interested readers should of course check out the full paper for all the details.First note that the near term -- the next hundred years, say -- is a vanishingly tiny proportion of all time, and contains an even tinier proportion of all the valuable entities (e.g. sentient lives) that could potentially exist (if we don't wipe ourselves out first).  It would seem to follow, on almost any plausible population axiology (whether 'total', 'average', or anything in-between -- so long as it does not intrinsically discount the value of future lives relative to current ones), that the overall value of the world will be determined almost entirely by the (quantity and) quality of far-future lives.  All of us existing today are, by comparison, a single speck of dust in the desert.  We matter immensely, of course, but no more than any other speck, and there are an awful lot more of them, in aggregate, than there are of us.So if there's anything we can feasibly do to improve the trajectory of the long-run [More]